Tag Archives: Moira Cue Art Review

The Art of Seda Saar

 

Seda Saar, 1 Spheres V 20 x 36 in. Mixed Media on Canvas 2019  © 2019, 2021 Seda Saar 

By Moira Cue

I never would have met Seda Saar (the second time) if I hadn’t joined the Los Angeles Art Association. I never would have joined the Los Angeles Art Association if I hadn’t been trying to help a friend, an attorney, find work with an arts-related nonprofit.

I met Peter Mays, executive director of the LAA, at the 2019 LA Art Show VIP Gala. (Peter’s impressive creds include serving as co-chair on the Education Committee for the Board of Directors for the MOCA Contemporaries.)

The lone attorney on their advisory board had just stepped down and they needed occasional help. I wound up on their email list and checked out a couple of events before I decided to join.

What stood out to me at the first LAA event I went to was that the social vibe was totally different. No social climbers or Hollywood shallow types. No one asked me “what do you do?” in a way that immediately read “what can you do for me?” Instead, I met an older gentleman who cradled his “anxiety dog,” and other introverts—people you can count on to be kind. It was truly endearing. So, when I got the call for artists, I thought, what the heck, why not?

I made it to about two LAA art events before the pandemic hit. At one event, the 2019 Open Show, I noticed one woman who caught my eye, Louisa Miller. Tall, lean, angular, with cropped hair, in her seventies, she stood statuesque, hawkishly staring at a painting. She was so immersed in the work; it was as if no one else was in the room. I immediately wanted to talk to her.

Louisa would introduce me to Frederika Roeder, the moderator for the 2020 Pasadena Critique Group. One of the best things about being in LAA is the critique groups where you get to meet with very nice people who are interested in sharing each other’s art. Our group included Louisa, a serious landscape painter; Olyessa Volk and Viktoria Romanova, both Russian immigrants with two totally unique styles; Frederika, a Southern California surfer girl down to her roots; Katherine Murray-Morse, who’d been in banking and had started painting two years prior; and Richard M. Blanchard, who also has a stunning interior finishing portfolio and celebrity clientele list (http://www.atom-zu.com/).

But THIS article is about Seda.

I first met Seda around 2012 or 2013 when she was running the MLY Gallery at the Malibu Lumberyard, which was particularly well known for a star-studded, much talked-about exhibition of a private buyer’s entire Warhol collection.

We met for the second time in Louisa’s spacious, high-ceilinged loft near a trendy Pasadena shopping district for Louisa’s critique (before Covid made in-person meetings unfeasible). Seda carried herself with confidence and authority, declaring certain paintings “successful,” and others “less successful” with an aura of finality. I was lured in by a series of works that amounted to some flirtation that Louisa had made with child-like abstraction. Everyone else was on a different wavelength. During and after the critique, I really connected with Richard and I hoped we’d become good friends.

I didn’t really start to get to know Seda until her one-person show Refractions – a Lens Through Time at the Neutra Museum Gallery (2020). She was gracious enough to make time to give me a personal tour. This was during the autumn wildfires of 2020. My friends in San Francisco and Portland filled their social media feeds with apocalyptic images of a sunless sky, a blood red moon, stories of struggling to breathe in AQI readings that were off the charts. In my own neighborhood, we were under evacuation warning. The entire city of Los Angeles was blanketed in soot and smelled like campfire. The few minutes outdoors between the car and the museum’s front door, even in a KN95, left my eyes stinging, my head pounding, and my throat sore.

 

Seda Saar, Spheres II 20 x 36 in. Mixed Media on Canvas 2019 (Private Collection San Diego) ©2019, 2021, Seda Saar. 

The Nuetra is a Silverlake nonprofit, designed by eponymous architect Richard Nuetra, renowned for his influence on Southern California modernist vis-à-vis crisp, steel and glass geometric forms. I can’t imagine a better fit for Saar’s work, which is informed by her study of interior architecture. (Saar holds a BA from London Metropolitan University.) In one area of the exhibition, near a seating area of mid-century Modern sofas and chairs, earlier, smaller, black-and-white renderings on paper of Nuetra-esque architectural forms in nature seamlessly fused Seda’s work with the museum’s purpose.

Seda’s work fits into two-dimensional and three-dimensional categories that enhance each other. For example, Saar recently won a Juror’s Award of Excellence for her sculpture, Prismatic, 2019, as part of the California Sculpture SLAM at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art in 2020. The piece is created with acrylic plastic and mirror in a pyramid shape refracting various jewel-toned colors of light, like a prism.

 

These sculptural works dealing with geometry, color, and light refraction are plastic, three-dimensional versions of paintings and mixed media two-dimensional work that addresses the same formal concerns of space, light, and color. In both cases, one could argue that more is more, and be right; the moreness of three-dimensional objects in space versus the moreness, the meta-ness of a cosmic, or planetary schemata seen in pieces like Genesis.

But what made me excited enough to write about Seda’s work was the added insight that I gained through this private touring.

Seda Saar, Prismatic 12 x 12 x 18 in. Acrylic and Mirror Sculpture, ©2021, Seda Saar

Here’s where I disclose my biases: I not only write about art, but I make art too. And while I have gone through phases like any artist who has been working several decades, my own work never relies on draftsman’s tools or clean lines. I love work that is childlike, expressionistic, and primitive. Typically, or historically, I’ve found work that was very crisp less interesting. The first exception to this generalization was Agnes Martin; had I not seen the work in person at LACMA, however, its delicacy would have escaped me. The work of Donald Judd’s and Carl Andres of this world still leaves me cold, while the work of the Cy Twomblys and Howard Hodgkins makes my heart sing.

As with Martin and other women working in an oeuvre descended from minimalism or post-minimalism, post-identity, and masculinity, a closer inspection of Saar’s lines and glyphs reveals their fail to establish a machine-like detachment. Her lush, indulgent use of color breaks all the rules of “seriousness” more generally associated with East Coast, rather than West Coast, artists.

And yet I had to get over my own bias of–oh this is geometry, so this is not about nature. And when we talked about the fires, global warming, and cycles of nature, and she insisted that the work was in fact, about nature, my first reaction was dismissive–that she just didn’t know how to talk about her work.

And that’s when the interesting thing happened. As I mentioned, during this discussion the whole city was blanketed in smoke. I’ve lived through fire seasons before, but nothing like 2020. The fires of 2020 taught me how primordial our fear of fire is. Because my reaction was physical and ancient: the one thing we fear as animals is fire, and the one thing that makes us human is that we tamed fire. But the animal fear is deep inside of us, ready to hatch, ready to return us to our instincts: RUN! And a few days later, I would; albeit on an airplane, rather than with my two legs.

When Seda started to talk about chakras, my chakra energy was off, I was in fear mode (well duh, we were worried our house was going to burn down). Honestly, I forget which chakra was the culprit. But she told me that she studied shamanism in Peru, and she decided to walk me through a series of breaths, orations, and gestures intended to rebalance my chakras. I’m not sure I “believe” in chakras, but I’m pretty accommodating, so I went along with it. I don’t know if it changed my chakras or not. I know that something transformed in Seda while she was acting as a shamanic leader. Her voice changed, her presence changed, and we addressed the directions and certain elements of nature. At one point I closed my eyes.

And when it was over, and I opened my eyes, for a second her work came to life. It was no longer just formalism, or what I initially saw as a confused hodgepodge of various movements and thoughts that didn’t “line up” with the finished product. (Why does she keep talking about nature when these are so—quasi hard edge?) She had had a hard time explaining the work. (And why should artists be expected to write their own jingoistic marketing blurbs is beyond me.) But experiencing the work was totally different. I realized that Nature—the nature that I see as wild, as expressionistic, as opposed to geometric forms and straight lines—that Nature at the macro level (galaxies) and micro level (cells) can be very precise, very linear, very geometric.

Seda Saar, Genesis 36 x 48 in. Mixed Media on Canvas 2020 ©2020, 2021, Seda Saar 

And so, I had a shamanic experience of opening myself to another vision, another version, of reality. While it required the physical presence of the artist to pull it off, it is, undoubtedly, the highest and rarest achievement in art to break through unseen preconceptions and pull the viewer into the world of the artist.

Moira Cue is an award winning multi-media artist and art critic for The Hollywood Sentinel.  She attended the Masters Program of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  Learn more about her and contact the author at www.MoiraCue.com 

Textual content is  © 2021, Hollywood Sentinel. Images provided courtesy of the artist.  All world rights reserved.

LA Art Show 2018

Review by Moira Cue 

Antuan Rodriguez Left or Right.

There may be a little personal bias going on, but this year—2018— was my favorite year at the LA Art Show. The modern, contemporary, art and design objects, China, jewelry and Old Masters sections were all combined into one open floor plan, with greatly widened aisles. The result was less elbow-to-elbow pushing and shoving and more room to breathe.  Additionally, gone were some of the more theatrical, over-the-top shock artists. With installations like Antaun’s “Left or Right,” and his partner Luce, there was a focus on healing.

Antuan Rodriquez is a Cuban artist whose installation of lightweight red punching bags allowed visitors to punch their favorite dictator. Along with notorious butchers, despots, serious control freaks, and murderers, the artist included the face of two recent Republican American presidents.  One of whom was extremely popular as a punching bag, in stark contrast to the many artists who were inspired in 2008 to create iconic, positive images of Barack Obama.

I met Antuan’s partner, Luce, in line near the espresso bar and again in front of two of my paintings which made a brief appearance at Bruce Lurie Gallery. I didn’t know they were part of the programming, but I was drawn to their all-white clothes and the gold temporary tattoos Luce was wearing on her face and below her clavicle. I described the positive intention of my paintings—to emanate abstract virtues and stimulate cross-cultural conversations—and Luce told me she was a medicine woman, and invited me to be a participant in a performance on Sunday, the closing day.

Participants in white chanted “om” and proceeded through the gallery to the punching bag installation, where we played Tibetan singing bowls, chanted some more, and then watched a man named Ceasar perform a Latino version of the whirling dervish dance, spinning on his head with a biker’s helmet on. The intention behind the performance was to offer an alternative to the aggression and male dominance symbolized by the punching bags.  (note: I do not believe Luce was listed separately in the programming, so I don’t know if I am correctly crediting her or her full name).  The piece was listed as a part of Antuan’s installation.

This was a year where women and people of color had a greater presence than in some previous shows, and that is definitely a positive and led to the opportunity to have some real conversations. Jane Szabo, a photographer and conceptual artist, chided me about my sky-high heels. I wasn’t even wearing them when we met, but carrying them while trekking with my flip flops. In years prior, I received odd looks for ‘not’ wearing them rather than direct comments that I should just ditch them entirely instead of soldiering on as long as possible. I’m glad she started a conversation because I was able to learn more about her work.

Szabo discussed with me photographs of objects that related to memory, aging, and loss. “I read a novel with a line that stood out to me,” she said. “The last thing your parents teach you is how to die.” Szabo is currently dealing with her parents’ aging as an emotional source of contrast in her still life. The work suggests domesticity and the passage of time with an intimate but ultimately inaccessible urgency. My favorite image is “Secrets” from the Family Matters series. It is a diary with a padlock, covered in rough grey stones. The image is iconic and powerful.

Another super cool artist I was able to meet was Chukes, an Altadena- based sculptor who was present with his wife Rhonda. I started up a conversation with Chukes about the work of one of his friends, Tim Washington; whose work utilizing found objects and kitsch (placed on the outer parameters of the gallery) is funky, whimsical, and yet deeply spiritual. Chukes’ figurative work I was fortunate to have described to me celebrates womanhood and exposes the psychological limitations placed on African-American men culturally as illusions. That is not to say that we don’t all have cultural expectations that can be harmful; it is to say that we are free to move beyond what is expected of us. If we realize we have the choice.

More LA galleries, and more downtown LA galleries, made strong showings this year. Chris Davies, director of Fabrik Projects, is not only running an art publication (Fabrik Magazine) but also made a very strong showing with the project space and a lot of consistent, great work. BG Gallery from Santa Monica was everywhere. And the quality of downtown LA galleries, which used to be spotty with a few bright lights, is becoming an undeniable force. Gallerist Renee Warren of Ren Gallery and Luke at Cordesa Fine Art were approachable, smart, and both located in DTLA. Cordesa had a tightly curated group of artists whose work was both conceptually and technically precise; I particularly enjoyed Martin Machado’s psychological aquatic landscapes with a contemporary psyche and an antique etched feel and the brightly colored wood relief sculpture of Sean Newport.  Ren Gallery had mandala-themed works on sale that caught my eye immediately on entering the hall from an artist named Aiseborn, who was creating a mural in residence on opening night.

On Wednesday night I met a woman named Chakra who also knew Aiseborn; she met him when he knocked on the door of their loft/commune and asked if he could tag their wall. Chakra discovered that Aiseborn was homeless, and the group decided to provide housing for Aiseborn for a year and a half. The artist is now in the Getty Museum collection and doing very well. His work also has a spiritual vibe, with titles like “purity” and figures that seem influenced by Mayan and Incan artifacts. Although he is a street artist, his work looks more like the socially conscious murals of the sixties and seventies than work inspired by graffiti and urban music.

Art All Ways represented smaller scale work by hot L.A. street artist Retna, along with a very popular installation of ceramic donuts by Jae Yong Kim and giant candy bars by artist Daniel Allen Cohen, who brought his adorable bulldog to sit at the booth one evening. Performance artist Pandemonia, outfitted head to toe like a plastic doll, attracted a lot of attention.

There was texture by ceramic artist Sharon Hardy, and neuroscience-inspired projects on empathy and synesthesia, and a ballpark with a trio of alternate selves; a Skid Row-inspired cast of characters in a staged postmodern reference to the Death of Marat, also titled Death of Marat, by Daniel Joseph Martinez, who was also in attendance Wednesday night and surrounded by curious patrons.
The newly discovered Gil Cuatrecasas work was prominently represented, with a highly professional team working to give the artist the support and recognition he deserved while he was still living but didn’t receive until later. I absolutely love this work.

The work that the gallerists do on behalf of artists is not easy, and often overlooked. One quality of a great art dealer is bonhomie—a general goodwill toward people—and spending more time at the Bruce Lurie Gallery this year, I was impressed by the Lurie brothers’ openness and general good nature toward the show attendees. It’s no wonder their booth was always full of people. Pop artist Nelson De La Nuez showed some new works on custom-made paper; created by the same folks who bring us spiral bound notebooks, but in a giant size. Andrea Bonfils showed highly technical mixed media works with a floral theme that looked like candy-colored floral holograms. Michael Gorman’s colorful, expressive work elicited a lot of interest, also.

I was excited to find the Paris-based Galerie Bruno Massa, exhibiting the work of Gilles Teboul. Teboul’s work was described in the gallery’s literature “in the purest archeiropoïetic tradition …. (a) Greek term (that) means ‘not made by the hand of man, miraculously.” The artist demonstrates mastery of the surface reflection through poured resin over gorgeous, crepuscular color fields of a halcyon dream. The entire collection clearly belonged in a museum.

On a final, upbeat note, the Lincoln Navigator on display was there not only to turn heads but to support St. Jude’s. For every person who gave her personal information, the company donated $50 to St. Jude’s Childrens Hospital. And then they gave you a box of truffles—a sweet reward for a simple act of kindness.

Moira Cue is Art and Literature Editor for The Hollywood Sentinel, a fine artist, singer, songwriter, and actress who has appeared on numerous TV shows and major motion picture.  Visit the official Moira Cue website at www.MoiraCue.com 
This content is (c). 2018, Moira Cue, Hollywood Sentinel.   Contact Hollywood Sentinel at 310-226-7176.